Xi Jinping’s presence at Hong Kong anniversary still unclear

HONG KONG (AP) — Questions continue to circle over whether Chinese leader Xi Jinping will attend the 25th year anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule and the inauguration of of the territory’s new leader.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Xi would participate in the July 1 commemorations but wasn’t explicit on whether he would travel to the city.

As with most matters concerning the ruling Communist Party, the travel plans of top leaders are generally kept secret. However, Xi has not traveled outside mainland China throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

China has stuck to its “zero-COVID” strategy of eliminating outbreaks entirely by mass testing the population and locking down buildings, neighborhoods or whole cities for weeks at a time. Hong Kong is seeing infections rise again recently after a flood of cases earlier this year threatened to overwhelm its hospitals.

While the Hong Kong commemorations are purely symbolic, they will include the installation Friday of former security chief John Lee, who led a harsh crackdown on 2019 pro-democracy protests, as the city’s chief executive.

Since the protests, Beijing has imposed a national security law that has jailed, silenced or exiled Hong Kong political activists; curtailed freedoms of expression and assembly; and removed or disqualified people from public office if they are deemed unpatriotic.

In 2017, Xi gave a speech at the 20th anniversary commemorations in which he pledged the central government would take a hardline against any challenges to its authority.

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